Are Posthumous Records Necessary?
Dear record labels,
In the wake of a Prince’s Purple Rain being remastered, we cannot deny that the passing of artists like Leonard Cohen, Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin, Selena, etc., is both tragic and heart breaking as fans. We will all remember that one album or song from our dear departed fav that changed the game, got us through that tough moment in life, or brought sheer joy through the riff of a guitar and unforgettable melody. While this is all great for the sake of legendary work and nostalgia, many of us cannot move past the sickening feeling of record labels putting posthumous content from the deepest darkest places of the musical vault for the sake of a dollar. Do you do it in memory of the artist? Are you doing it for the fans? Is it for sales and numbers? Does the family approve? What is your motive? Why do you touch unfinished work?
It’s a thought many of us have when the long awaited album after death is less than satisfactory. Was Michael Jackson’s Xscape record as good as thriller for those who loved the King of Pop? Did the Montage of Heck make Nirvana fans miss Kurt Cobain more 19 years after his death? Or do records mean that much more when an artist was in the middle of recording/post production of their album? For example, did the Dreaming of You album commemorate the Tejano grace of Selena? Did Biggie’s Life After Death pay homage to his legacy?
According to NPR, posthumous albums usually fall into three categories: Warm to the Touch, The Infinite Vault, and Potpourri. Each encompasses the overall feeling of fans regarding posthumous albums. Warm to the Touch are the albums that come out a short time after the passing of the artist, therefore tend to be the best as they have direct involvement from the artist themselves. The Infinite Vault is pretty self-explanatory: straight from the vault of unfinished works by an artist; a collective of incomplete concepts and ideas. Finally, Potpourri is simply ‘music” that has never existed, therefore, manufactured. Basically, while we understand the need to put out albums to celebrate the artistry of the dearly departed, somethings should just stay buried.
The only category worth supporting is Warm to the Touch. The artist had their final say about the way the album was created and their vision solidified, and as consumers and avid listeners, shouldn’t we respect that. Things stay in the vault for a reason; if an artist can’t have input on scrapped recordings, shaky vocals, and questionable production, it needs to be left as is. Hate to be blunt, but the only people really benefitting from The Infinite Vault and Potpourri is the record label, so let’s just put a stop it all.
Let my fav rest in peace.